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The Great Hair Experiment

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Editorial intern Casie Lukes attempts to tame her curly blonde mane with a simple adjustment to her hair-care regimen — find out if it worked!

This Christmas, I asked for used books from Amazon — because if there’s one thing I enjoy about a Midwestern winter, it’s the entitlement to stay inside, curl under a warm blanket with a cup of tea, and read. In other words, I go into “extreme hermit mode.” I digress …

One title I received is No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Your Beauty Products and the Ultimate Guide to Safe and Clean Cosmetics by Siobhan O’Connor and Alexandra Spunt, a resource I found while reading Beauty Makeover at http://experiencelife.com/article/beauty-makeover/.

The authors cover products for hair, face, makeup, body, nails, and my personal favorite, “The Ingredient Blacklist.” They also outline the affects these ingredients have on your health. Although it starts a bit slow, the authors do a good job of easing the reader into the information, which is fairly disturbing, and providing healthy alternatives.

Take formaldehyde. Yes, the same substance used to embalm dead people. The Beauty Industry puts this substance in nail polish, makeup, bubble bath, baby lotions, hair dye, antiperspirant and shampoo. Classified by the International Agency for Research Cancer as a carcinogen, it can cause immune-system toxicity, liver problems, and be an irritant and allergen.

Who wants to be rubbing formaldehyde in their hair on a daily basis? Not me. Hence, my hair experiment. I have blonde curly hair. Curly hair I’ve tried to straighten my entire life — with a curling iron, flat iron, and clothes iron. I washed it daily with non-organic shampoo and conditioner. I attempted to calm it down with hair gel, hair spray, hair foam, hair oil. You name it, I’ve tried it. And you know what? It only got worse. It became dry, brittle, frizzy, and very, very unhealthy. (The food I used to eat wasn’t helping my cause either, another holistic aspect the authors touch on.) So I thought I’d try some of the suggestions in No More Dirty Looks for cleaning up my hair-care regimen.

I’m a skeptic, but I followed the recommendation to wash my hair backward. I wetted it down, put a quarter-size dollop of recommended conditioner into it, and let it sit. According to the book, our scalps produce sebum, a natural conditioner for our hair, which also protects us from infection. Since shampoo strips so much of it away, we begin over-producing sebum, causing our hair to appear greasy. Shampoo’s job is to grab and pull out excess dirt particles, making our hair feel clean. And it does its job well. So well, in fact, we need conditioner because it not only strips our natural scalp oils, it also strips all the helpful nutrients from our hair. This causes it to become overly dry, brittle, and more unmanageable. (I kept telling myself these things as I waited for the conditioner to soak in, imagining my roots being a greasy, nasty mess afterward.) I rinsed the conditioner out, used a bit of shampoo and a quick rinse. And it worked. My hair felt clean. It looked clean. And it dried in loose, soft, un-frizzy waves. The next day when I styled it, adding a few curls here and there with a curling iron, I had fewer fly-aways.

This technique is recommended by Horst Rechelbacher, the founder of Aveda (it also includes washing your entire body with conditioner, which I opted out of). Want to give it a try? Follow these easy steps:

  1. Make sure you have good, organic shampoo and conditioner. (Some brands recommended by the authors include: Aubrey’s Rosa Mosqueta Nourishing Shampoo, Dr. Hauschka Shampoo with Apricot and Sea Buckthorn, John Masters Organics Zinc and Sage Shampoo with Conditioner, Aubrey’s GPB Glycogen Protein Balancing Conditioner and Intelligent Nutrients Leave-In Conditioner.)
  2. Wet your hair down.
  3. Wash hair with quarter-sized amount of conditioner. Let it sit for a few minutes.
  4. Rinse your hair.
  5. Apply small amount of shampoo to hair, and rinse.
  6. Towel off, and you’re good to go!

Feel free to visit http://nomoredirtylooks.com/ for more information! Also check out the links below for articles from Experience Life that offer more information about why we should all care about what’s in our personal-care products:

Are there any special, pro-health hair tricks you swear by? I invite you to share them in the comments section below!

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